The SF Bucket List: Everything You Need to Do Before You Die

If you do life right, you'll live and die in San Francisco. In which case you've hopefully got some time to cross all of these must-do, only-in-SF items off of your bucket list. If you do life wrong, you'll end up moving back to whatever boring town you came from. In which case you have less time to do all of these must-do, only-in-SF things, so get on it now!

Lombard Street
Flickr/Eric Astrauskas

1. Drive down the crooked part of Lombard St

Bonus points if you do it dressed like Mario Kart characters.

2. Attend a concert at The Fillmore

And eat a free apple. And (hopefully) take home a free poster.

3. Ride a cable car

Everyone should do it at least once. Even you.

4. "Run" Bay to Breakers

But only if you're wearing a legitimately well-planned and memorable costume. None of this "I went to American Apparel at 8pm last night and bought something tight and shiny" crap.

5. Drive the 49-Mile Drive

So. Much. Scenery.

golden gate bridge

6. Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge

Wear a jacket. Go to Sausalito. Get some ice cream. Ferry home.

7. See a Giants game at AT&T Park

Preferably a home opener or a playoff game, but really any game will do. Bonus points for eating garlic fries. Half credit if you're kayaking outside of it.

8. Have a bonfire at Ocean Beach

Get there early to watch the sunset.

9. Eat dim sum

Hong Kong Lounge is a good place to start. Really, you should do this a million times before you die, though.

Beach Blanket Babylon
Beach Blanket Babylon

10. Laugh your ass off at Beach Blanket Babylon

It's the country's longest musical revue for a reason.

11. Enter the Bring Your Own Big Wheel race

Easter in SF > Easter anywhere else.

12. Get a Mai Tai at the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

It's the only place in SF where you can sip on a drink while enjoying a rainstorm with thunder and lightning.

13. Enjoy a morning bun from Tartine

You literally have to get it in the morning though; by afternoon they'll be long sold out.

alamo square
Flickr/Andy Langager

14. Take a picture in front of the Full House house

Oh come on, you know you want to. And even if you don't want to, one of your out-of-town friends will make you.

15. Do the audio tour at Alcatraz

It really is much cooler than you think. Plus, there's beer on the ferry ride back.

16. Toast to the good life at Top of the Mark

The 360-degree panoramic views make the $14 martinis worth it.

17. Celebrate Pride

Wave that rainbow flag!

18. Visit the buffalo in Golden Gate Park

Just don't jump into their paddock.

cinnamon toast

19. Eat the $4 cinnamon toast at Trouble Coffee

That's per slice, FYI. But so worth it.

20. Drink a beer at Toronado

You know, a REAL beer.

21. Devour a bacon-wrapped hot dog

On Mission St. After midnight.

22. Spend an afternoon chillin' on Hippie Hill


buena vista cafe
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist

23. Drink an Irish coffee at Buena Vista Cafe

Or two. Or six.

24. Go to the opera

And also the ballet and the symphony.

25. Play the antique arcade games at Musée Mécanique

Yes, it means going to Fisherman's Wharf, but that's fine because while you're there you can...

26. Say hello to the sea lions

And eat some clam chowder in a bread bowl.

27. Walk the labyrinth at Land's End

Meditation not required.

stow lake pedal boats
Flickr/Shawna Scott

28. Paddle a boat at Stow Lake

Or row one if that's more your speed.

29. Listen to the sounds of the Wave Organ

While enjoying a bottle of Champagne on the DL.

30. High-five Hopper's Hands on the fence at Fort Point

Bring your pup so he can high-five the paws below.

31. Eat seafood at Swan Oyster Depot

People have been lining up at this no-frills lunch counter since 1912 for very good reason.

sewer slides
Flickr/Braden Kowitz

32. Slide down the Seward St Slides

BYO cardboard. (Although there's usually some there.)

33. Sing along to a movie at the Castro Theatre

The Sound of Music, The Little Mermaid, and yes: even Frozen.

34. Spend a day exploring the SFMOMA

Be sure to walk through (and Instagram) Richard Serra's Sequence while you're there.

35. Enjoy a drink in the back room at Tosca

Figuring out how to get invited back there is all on you.

city lights
Flickr/Curtis Cronn

36. Buy a book at City Lights

And then read it.

37. Run the Lyon St Steps

Walking and/or just looking at the view from the top is also acceptable.

38. Drive to the top of Twin Peaks

And take in the view.

39. Eat the roasted chicken and bread salad at Zuni

Bring a date, 'cause it's for two.

40. Go the top of Coit Tower

And climb the Filbert Steps to get there.

hot chocolate sundae ice cream
Flickr/Derek Bruff

41. Indulge in an ice cream sundae at Ghirardelli Square

Theres a reason tourists like to go there. Trust.

42. Sing a solo with the piano at Martuni's

Get the liquid courage from the very strong martinis.

43. Shop for records at Amoeba

Or fine: CDs.

treasure island music festival
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

41. Indulge in an ice cream sundae at Ghirardelli Square

Theres a reason tourists like to go there. Trust.

42. Sing a solo with the piano at Martuni's

Get the liquid courage from the very strong martinis.

43. Shop for records at Amoeba

Or fine: CDs.

44. Go to at least one day of the Treasure Island Music Festival

And definitely ride the Ferris wheel while you're there.

45. Walk to the top of Mount Davidson

At 938ft, you'll be at the highest point in the whole city.

46. Eat at a food truck

Eat every single food truck.

ferry building
Flickr/Jim Nix

47. Spend a day at the Ferry Building

Farmers market, oysters, cheese, hamburgers... OK, maybe two days?

48. Enjoy a free concert at Stern Grove

Just get there early if you want to get a good spot.

49. Eat "The Big Donut" at Bob's Donuts

Finish it in under two minutes to get your $8 back and your name listed on the Hall of Fame!

palace of arts sf

50. Take a picture in front of the Palace of Fine Arts

Wedding dress not required.

51. Eat a burrito in the Mission

It doesn't have to be from La Taqueria, but it should probably be from La Taqueria.

52. Cross the Drum Bridge at the Japanese Tea Garden

It was built in Japan and then shipped to San Francisco for the 1894 World's Fair.

53. Wait in line for an hour for brunch

Even better if it's bottomless.

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

54. Walk through the two-story Gingerbread House at the Fairmont Hotel

And then walk the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral.

55. Wait in line for the focaccia at Liguria Bakery

But get there early if you want to choose which of the 10 kinds you want or you’ll get “stuck” with onion.

56. Indulge in a super-sized sub at Submarine Center

And explore West Portal while you're there.

57. Spot the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill

Pro tip: Telegraph Hill isn't the only place you can spot them. Keep an eye out in Cole Valley and Fort Mason.

palace hotel sf
Flicke/Jefferey Zeldman

58. Take afternoon tea at the Palace Hotel

It's been an elegant tradition since the early 1900s.

59. Eat ramen in Japantown

It doesn't have to be the fried chicken ramen at Suzu Noodle House, but you won't be sad if it is.

60. Get a drink at every single one of SF's oldest bars

Yes, all 18 of them.

lovers lane
Flickr/Ian Abbott

61. Walk Lovers' Lane in the Presidio

Preferably with your lover. Hand-holding not required because, ew, PDA.

62. Explore the Sutro Baths

And then get a cocktail at the Cliff House (before the sun goes down).

63. Eat the "fried with pride" fried chicken from Frisco Fried

With a side of waffles, of course.

fleet week
Flickr/Dvid Shub

64. Watch the Blue Angels soar through the sky

Even better if you do it from a friend's rooftop.

65. Swim in the Pacific Ocean (sans wetsuit)

You can do it on New Year's Day with everyone else or whenever you're feeling brave, but it only counts if you dunk your head.

California Academy of Sciences
California Academy of Sciences

66. Drink cocktails at the California Academy of Sciences

There's a new 21+ adventure every Thursday night, including an aquarium, planetarium, four-story rainforest, and natural history museum. Be sure to say hey to Claude, the albino alligator, and the African penguins!

67. Feel your way around the Exploratorium's Tactile Dome

Hope you're not afraid of the dark.

68. Go to the top of the de Young's Hamon Observation Tower

You'll experience 360-degree panoramic views of the city (and it's free). Even better if you stay and explore the museum.

the thinker
Flickr/Jeff Tabaco

69. See The Thinker at the Legion of Honor

It's one of Rodin's original 28 bronze castings... though you should probably just make a day of it -- the Legion of Honor has tons of amazing fine art.

70. Listen to free bluegrass in Golden Gate Park

Technically it's "Hardly Strictly Bluegrass," which makes it even better.

71. Sail across the bay

Dock at Sam's Anchor Cafe in Tiburon for lunch.

72. Order prime rib at House of Prime Rib

It's a classic SF institution, plus the killer martinis are served with what's left in the shaker.

golden gate cookie factory
Flickr/Karlis Dambrans

73. Take a free tour at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

And taste them while they're warm, flat, and fresh out of the oven.

74. Fly like the wind on the Billy Goat Hill swing

It's SF's very best tree swing thanks to the stunning views.

75. Grow old here

Herb Caen said it best when he said, "One day if I do go to heaven... I'll look around and say, 'It ain't bad, but it ain't San Francisco.'"

Sign up here for our daily San Francisco email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun SF has to offer.

Daisy Barringer is a freelance writer who grew up in SF. Herb Caen is her hero. Follow her on Twitter @daisy.